An artisṯs rendition of an example net zero energy classroom. Image credit: Project Frog

On June 15, 2015 contractors broke ground for the installation of two 1,500 square foot, net zero energy classrooms. These classrooms will be energy neutral, that is they will generate at least as much energy as they will use.

“This multiyear effort characterizes the effect of usage and building design on energy demand. This is part of a larger research program intended to evaluate the performance and integration of a range of energy technologies that includes energy efficiency, storage and renewable generation systems,” said Richard Rocheleau, Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) director.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education will use these classrooms that were funded by HNEI, through a grant from the Office of Naval Research, and designed and installed by Project Frog, a California architecture company. Site work, hardscape, and landscaping are funded by the UH Mānoa Office of Planning and Facilities.

The stand-alone buildings are being built on plot adjacent Castle Memorial Building and behind Wist Hall, home of the College of Education. They are expected to be complete by spring 2016.

Clean energy and high efficiency

“This is a real stake-in-the-ground milestone for the university, as we embark on a new journey toward aggressive sustainability and energy goals,” said Stephen Meder, UH Mānoa assistant vice chancellor, Office of Planning and Facilities, a key advocate for this project.

Solar electricity will be provided by photovoltaic arrays mounted on the rooftops. Lighting usage will be controlled and minimized with high efficiency LEDs and sensors that respond to the amount of natural daylight in the room. A number of lighting modes can be programmed into a switch that will accommodate various visual requirements.

Operable windows and ceiling fans will be relied on to maximize natural ventilation for most of the year. The walls and ceiling are highly insulated and the windows feature high-performance glazing that allows visible light through while rejecting the infrared spectrum responsible for solar heat gain in a building. Comfort during peak cooling seasons will be maintained using a state-of-the-art split air conditioning system.

Educational and research platforms

These classrooms will serve as research platforms by helping to validate energy simulation models used to predict energy consumption and thermal comfort. A real-time dashboard will display current and past operating conditions, including comfort indicators such as temperature and humidity, as well as energy use by the different components such as lighting, ceiling fans, air conditioning, and plug loads. The dashboard will be used as an educational tool, helping users visualize energy usage and generation with hopes to foster more efficient behavior.

Map of the net zero classrooms building site, adjacent to the College of Education on the UH Mānoa campus

Read the HNEI news release for more.